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ROAD TO RECONCILIATION
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AseanAffairs Magazine September - October 2010
CONTENT • BEYOND ASEAN 
• ASEAN BAZAAR • ASEAN TALK
ASEAN AVIATION • INSIDE OUT
• ASEAN ENERGY • OPINION
• ASEAN TRAVELLER • SAVE OUR PLANET MALYSIA

Thai Prime Minister
Abhisit Vejjajiva

Four months on in the reconciliation process Asean Affairs examines the progress and shortcomings of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s plan to bridge

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YB Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz, MP Advisor & Patron, the Malaysia-Europe Forum (MEF),
and former Minister of International Trade & Industry, Malaysia

RAFIDAH: ASEAN ECONOMIC COMMUNITY IS ON TRACK
On 3rd August 2010, on the eve of  Save Our Planet – Malaysia, Rafidah Aziz gave her comments on the development of Asean and related topics in an exclusive and spontaneous interview with Asean Affairs.  
 

Rafidah Aziz ended her reign as the world’s longest serving trade minister in 2008 but still serves as a member of the Malaysian Parliament and is an insightful spokesperson on the development of Asean and its coming emergence as the Asean Economic Community (AEC) in 2015. Recently interviewed at the Save Our Planet - Malaysia event in Kuala Lumpur, she offered insight into the development of Asean and why the AEC will have a distinctive presence on the world stage. Aziz said that Asean “was on track” for its evolution into the AEC.

She emphasized that in the initial planning stage for Asean, policy makers “tried to pick the best of the European Union and then chose what we can do.” She said the AEC is not a common market in the EU model but an extension of the current Asean Free Trade Area.

She explained that a key element in the development of the AEC was to produce an economic unit that could account for the different economic developmental levels of the countries within Asean. Singapore and Malaysia, for example, qualify as first tier countries in their economic development, while Laos and Cambodia are third tier, with Asean’s two largest economies, Indonesia and Thailand, respectively, falling in between. Myanmar, of course, is a special case.

The goal of the AEC is to minimize barriers and technicalities in trade and movement between the 10 countries and for the countries to be less “regimented” and display flexibility in their relations with Asean partners. She cited the flow of labor between Asean countries as a crucial example. quarter of 2010 showed

For example, some countries might need skilled labor from Singapore, while Singapore might need less-skilled workers to do some of the “heavy lifting” jobs in its labor-intensive industries. Currently Singapore accommodates about 100,000 foreign workers, many from India and Pakistan. In trade, she pointed out that there were many Malaysian companies producing solar panels but they were selling them only in Malaysia. The advent of the AEC should broaden not only the solar panel market but also the markets for other Malaysian industries as well.

>>We tried to pick the best of the european union and then chose what we can do.<<

For tourism, a major goal is to create a visa allowing entry into all 10 countries, a goal that is as yet unrealized. “How easy it is to go to America,” Aziz observed in the discussion of a universal Asean visa.

Turning to another aspect of the AEC, she expressed the view that the formation of the AEC provides a green opportunity for the 10-member group. She reiterated her view that individual countries needed to get beyond nationalism and realize they are stakeholders in the well-being of the planet.

At Save Our Planet - Malaysia, she observed that pockets of poverty remain in Asean: “Who cares about carbon footprints if they have no shoes,” and urged the audience to make the “green agenda part of everyday life.”

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